Few people believe that Disney had anything good to offer at 1994’s brilliant The Lion King. Luckily, I’m one of those few. I think Mulan is an obvious choice as something excellent, but the one that I hold even dearer and the one’s that less remembered is 1997’s Hercules. Only recently Luke pointed to a brilliant musical piece from the film, so I guess I’m not the only thinking about it at the moment. Of course, the film isn’t really an accurate account of the Hercules myth – like all thing’s Disney it’s simplified – but enchantingly so. I’d probably be moved to call the score for Hercules its triumph, and it’s really one of the best they’ve put out.
The story begins with the five muses who begin to recount the story of the great Hercules. It’s a clever choice from the filmmakers. It’s more personal than a narrator, but narration is necessary and the five muses (who are hilarious, I might add) do just enough to make this story accessible while keeping it in its time. This was back in the day before all animated films needed recognisable voices, since the film is littered with big Broadway stars that most of us probably don’t know. And it’s Broadway star Susan Egan who delivers on point voice work as Meg who stands out as the film’s star. Her role is shorter than most heroines, and she’s definitely more nuanced and Egan’s atypical smoky voice (atypical for Disney at least) that make her so memorable. It’s a pity she only gets one number, but she knocks it out of the park with “I Won’t Say I’m In Love” accompanied by the muses.
However, like so many of the stories from Disney Hercules is not just concerned with legend and romance. Like The Lion King before it (and in some ways even The Little Mermaid and Beauty & the Beast) it examines the relationship between children and parents. It’s not quite as invasive as The Lion King but it does a good job nonetheless. And Hercules is also lucky enough to have one of Disney’s most macabre villains. Unlike so many animated films it doesn’t aim to drown all its poignancy in silliness and though it does give in to the sentimental on occasion it still manages to remain honest. Sure, it doesn’t make my top 100 – but that doesn’t mean that I can’t love it still. It’s worthy of your time and remembrance…and that’s the Gospel Truth!